Anti-slavery drive draws support from politicians

Politicians including Frank Field and Jonathan Aitken have thrown their weight behind an RHS Chelsea Flower Show garden that is promoting the Modern Slavery Act and asking retailers and consumers to root out slave labour.

Modern Slavery: garden designed by Juliet Sargeant - image: © RHS
Modern Slavery: garden designed by Juliet Sargeant - image: © RHS

Field, Labour MP for Birkenhead, said the real pressure is going to come from consumers to rid supply chains of slavery. The easy part was creating the act in 2015 but the hard part was to "create a consumer market consumed by anger".

Juliet Sargeant designed the Gold Medal-winning Modern Slavery Garden for Chelsea to raise awareness of the act and the wider issues surrounding it. The Outdoor Room built the garden and Dickson's Roses has bred a Modern Slavery Rose to feature at the show.

Field said Chelsea is a good platform to bring the issue to people's attention and "among all that beauty be confronted with horror". Anti slavery commissioner Kevin Hyland said slavery could mean being forced to manufacture consumer goods in the UK or overseas, domestic servitude or forced prostitution. The aim for supply chain transparency is to change business culture rather than look "purely in profit terms", he explained.

Home office minister Karen Bradbury said there are 10,000-13,000 UK slavery victims and 36 million globally - "something we should be embarrassed about". She wants to see "transparency in the supply chain" and said: "As consumers we should decide not to buy from retailers that don't take slavery seriously."

Supply chain expert Philip Evason has said the Modern Slavery Act is important new legislation that retailers need to know about (HW, 15 April). It demands that companies with a turnover of more than £37m must say what they are doing about slavery in their supply chains.

A campaign that launched at Chelsea is asking customers to question retailers on whether products are "slavery-free". The organisers want people to ask whether what they buy is slavery-free by photographing any particular product, tagging the company that made it and then making a post on Twitter to "#askthequestion".

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